Christmas Recipe: Kerala Chicken Stew

Christmas came and went, and it was so much fun. My best friend came over with her friend, and I decided to make a South Indian dinner. That meant rice and lots of coconut! If you don’t know by now, then I should tell you: food from Kerala will almost always involve coconut. There’s either coconut oil, grated coconut, coconut milk or bits of roasted coconut. Kerala chicken stew uses coconut milk as a base, and I love it because it is uncomplicated and sits well on any palate.

Ideally, I would have liked to serve this with appams or hoppers, but for all my love of Kerala and it’s cuisine, I do not know how to make the batter for appams. I mean, I know how it’s done, but I just haven’t gotten around to doing it. (Note to self- must do so in 2012.) This chicken stew is rather like the fish moilee I made a while ago, the only difference being this does not use tomatoes. You can if you want to, I chose not to.



  • 300 grams chicken, cubed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste (I used Dabur, you can use anything you like or even better, zhuzh it up in the blender!)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (1 tablespoon for marination; 2 for frying)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 teaspoons ginger, chopped or cut into matchsticks (I’ll be honest, I did not really measure…it seemed like 2 teaspoons!)
  • 1 medium sized onion; chopped into quarters
  • 1 medium sized potato; chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 medium-sized sticks of cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 pods of cardamom
  • A few whole black peppercorns
  • 1 carton (180 ml) coconut milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green chilli, slit


  • First, combine the chicken, ginger-garlic paste and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium sized bowl and mix well so that the chicken is coated evenly. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least half an hour.
  • Next, get your spices on. Bring out a large wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and then add all your whole spice(cinnamon+cloves+cardamom+peppercorns,) and swish around till the flavours are released and you have a nice smell in your kitchen.
  • Next, add the ginger, garlic and onions and sautee till they become soft.
  • Now, add your chicken which has been marinating, and sautee some more. Add some salt to taste, and a slit green chilli.
  • Now, add the chopped potatoes and carrots and add some water (about a quarter of a cup cup should do,) and allow to simmer.
  • Once your chicken has been simmering for a few minutes, add the coconut milk,  stir around, and allow to cook on a low flame till the chicken is tender.

Most other recipes call for fennel and curry leaves, but I didn’t use either because (a) I did not have any fennel and (b) I was also making Thrissur Chicken, which anyway has a lot of curry leaves and I didn’t want everything to taste the same.

The trick is to use all your whole spices in proportion- cinnamon and cloves are pretty strong and can really overpower a dish. Small amounts, gentle flavours. This tastes great with rice, appams or plain bread.

I will post another Christmas recipe tomorrow soon!